I fell pregnant naturally with “0% chance”

It has been an incredible and rather emotional week as our son Archie celebrated his first birthday, so a great time to share our story.

It was certainly a long journey for us.  I was diagnosed with Polycystic ovaries when I was 16 years old and later on with Endometriosis.  I had the endometriosis treated through keyhole surgery but it quickly returned so I had to have a second and fairly lengthy operation about 10 years ago when it had reached grade four and had spread into my bowel and fallopian tubes.

When I woke up from the second surgery, my surgeon told me both my tubes were blocked and that I had 0% chance of falling pregnant naturally –  my only option was IVF.  He also told me I had a bicornuate uterus and would need another operation to fix that before I went down the path of IVF as I wouldn’t be able to carry a baby until my uterus was in a condition to do so.

My husband and I always knew we wanted a family so we started to take steps towards starting IVF and I saw a naturopath to make sure I was in great shape.  I also started Acupuncture and booked in to get my bicorunate uterus corrected.  During that operation the surgeon rechecked my tubes and confirmed again that both were blocked.

We started our IVF journey and learnt we needed to do ICSI after my husband’s sperm was tested and the morphology results indicated we would have more success if we injected the egg with the selected sperm.  We soon discovered that due to my PCOS I was very sensitive to the drugs and getting the right dose was a real trial and error game.  It appeared I had lots of follicles so the doctor expected a good amount of eggs at the collection but with the first attempt I only got one egg.  It did fertilise but wasn’t strong enough to get far.

My dose was then adjusted for our next few attempts.  I did get more eggs and a few embryos so was lucky enough to have a few goes at having an embryo transfer but sadly none were successful, and the doctor started to question the quality of the eggs.  As I have PCOS it was hard to get the dose right and it could have been the drugs compromising the quality of my eggs.

After a number of cycles we decided to change our IVF doctor and clinic in search of a different perspective.  This new specialist suggested we try to keep the process as natural as possible and do IVF rather than ICSI and give the sperm the chance to swim to the egg.

He agreed the dose of drugs was a tricky balancing act with my PCOS as it would be very easy for me to get overstimulated.  Whilst I had a successful egg retrieval with this doctor, none of the sperm swam to the egg so nothing was fertilised.  He concluded that it didn’t necessarily mean it was due to the quality of the sperm, it could have been my eggs not allowing the sperm to fertilise.

During this whole IVF journey I had also heard about the problem of Natural Killer Cells and started to wonder if this was my problem although my IVF doctors didn’t believe this would cause problems.  I got tested through someone who specialises in this area and came back positive.  He told me my only treatment was to take some form of steroids which I didn’t like the sound of particularly as my IVF doctors were saying natural killer cells were not an issue and that the steroids could have negative side effects.  I ended up getting an alternative treatment for the killer cells through a doctor in the UK who prescribed mushrooms.  Overall it was all getting to be very confusing and disappointing as I wasn’t sure what, if anything, was going to work.

And then, by pure chance and fate I moved to Waverley and stumbled across Elizabeth’s practice, Life on the Inside.  I remember thinking what am I doing walking in here and seeking yet again another person’s opinion?!

As soon as I walked through the door at Elizabeth’s clinic, things started to make sense. There was a very relaxed and welcoming vibe which was very different to a lot of the other fertility appointments I had been to.  In my first appointment Elizabeth  explained some things that had been going on in my body for most of my life.

Elizabeth was able to give me scientific reasons as to why my IVF was not working in a way that made a lot of sense and reassured me she could help support my next IVF cycle to get a more successful outcome.  She didn’t just spell out all the problems I had, she confidently spoke about solutions and new directions and options for me that would ultimately lead to success.

Elizabeth also suggested I took some herbs which could help clear my blocked fallopian tubes so that I could maybe try to fall pregnant naturally. At the time this just seemed a stretch too far and wasn’t something I was even really registering.  I had after all ruled out falling pregnant naturally many many years ago!  However, just a few weeks into starting Elizabeth’s herbs and supplements my body showed signs of my tubes clearing and I went back for a hycosy which confirmed that to both tubes were completely clear.

At this point, I felt we had already achieved the absolute impossible, and my husband and I decided against starting another round of IVF and instead work with Elizabeth first.  This turned out to be the best decision of our lives!

Elizabeth spent several months fixing my menstrual cycles before we began trying to conceive. Whilst Elizabeth spoke of me being able to eventually conceive she broke it up into smaller goals, firstly clearing my tubes and then creating shorter cycles for me. It was good to have these shorter goals set out for me along the way as it meant I felt I was making great progress while I waited for the ultimate goal of falling pregnant.

Because Elizabeth works closely with GPs and specialists, we were able to request and access the blood tests and screening we needed so that we had markers to look back on. Being able to see the changes to my body was very motivating and also helped my husband who had been more skeptical about using herbal medicine in particular.

Before starting Elizabeth’s program, my cycle was an average of 75 days. Elizabeth helped me regulate these to 40-day cycles and then she explained we were ready to try conceiving naturally.  Three attempts in and I was pregnant with our little miracle Archie.  Finally after 3½  years of trying, our dream was a reality and, if I didn’t know Elizabeth’s medical and scientific background I might think I had stumbled across a magician 🙂

Throughout my time with Elizabeth, I had invaluable access to her knowledge – even when I wasn’t seeing her in person, Elizabeth would answer my questions on email (and I had a lot!) – this care is so rare in the medical word.

I also think Elizabeth is realistic.  My husband and I have seen a few naturopaths along our fertility journey and whilst we know the importance of a healthy diet Elizabeth was understanding of our lifestyles so didn’t make us feel guilty or that “all was lost” if we had the occasional glass of celebratory champagne or had pizza and chocolate one night. It sounds crazy but we had seen others who made us feel we had “stuffed it all up” when we had had a drink and that we were back to square one. The guilt we felt and stress was probably doing us more harm than the alcohol itself!  Having said that, the herbs and supplements Elizabeth prescribed us helped us manage cravings until they disappeared and want to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

A big thank you to Sarah for sharing her story and beautiful photos with us to share with our patients, friends and families.